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[E4C11] WordPress Essentials for Small Business – Efficient WP

Today we’re joining Doug Yuen, a location independent WordPress developer who runs a managed WordPress hosting service called Efficient WP.

Doug is one of my old friends from the Dynamite Circle community. A pod of us, roughly 35 digital nomads migrated up to Chiang Mai after the first Dynamite Circle conference in Bangkok in 2012. We took over half of a full service luxury condo and proceeded to co-work from various wifi cafes in the neighborhood.

Now I’ve helped a number of clients with creating WordPress sites for their business and even though WordPress is considered to be one of the easiest content managements systems on the market, for a lot of technologically challenged business owners, it’s still too complicated.

If you are considering starting a business website using self-hosted WordPress software – I encourage you to be honest with yourself – if you are too technologically challenged to Google how to fix something online or in YouTube, or if you don’t know how to upload a photo to Facebook and don’t want to figure it out on your own, managing a self-hosted WordPress.org might be more than you bargained for.

How do you decide whether you should invest in a hosted website solution with monthly fees, such as SquareSpace.com, or use self-hosted Wo rdPress to power your business website?

Doug will share with us a complete overview of what business owners need to consider when maintaining a self-hosted WordPress site. He’ll discuss:

  • The 3 main areas you need to be concerned about when managing a self-hosted WordPress website
  • Why having a WordPress friendly webhost matters, and how to evaluate which web hosting service is best for your business
  • The benefits of managed WordPress hosting and the risks of not maintaining regular WordPress updates
  • The magic bullet service that will save you time, money, risk, and frustration if you need fixes , tweaks, and updates to your self-hosted WordPress website
  • Our top recommended WordPress plugins for small business owners

And much more!

Mentioned in this Podcast

Where to Find Doug Yuen

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Lorna: Doug, I’m really happy to be interviewing you today. I’m really overjoyed that of all the people that I got to know from the Dynamite Circle community that came up to Chiang Mai after the first conference last year in Bangkok, that you decided to stay on in Chiang Mai. So when the next wave showed up here, came, I was really glad to see a familiar face because everyone else who came here last year is now in Saigon. I’m glad you held down the fort here.

Doug: Yeah It’s really great in Chiang Mai. I’m going to be sad to leave. It’s a really nice place over here.

Lorna: Yeah it’s been really lovely hanging out here and coworking with everyone in the Dynamite Circle community. So for our audience to get to know you better can you please tell us more about who you are, what your company does and how you got to where you are now as a location independent internet entrepreneur?

Doug: Sure. So my name’s Doug Yuen. My business is called EfficientWP and the website is of course efficientwp.com.

Primarily, what I do is a managed WordPress hosting. It’s a bit different from other similar services but essentially it’s taking all the hard technical stuff away from your responsibilities and you just focus on updating your content.

Lorna: Yeah and there’s a lot that goes into managing a self-hosted WordPress site that I think a lot of website owners don’t really know what they’re getting into until they actually do it. So we’re going to talk more about that but I want to ask you what it is that you love about your digital nomadic lifestyle?

Doug: Just the freedom and the fact that you can just go anywhere you want and explore new places. Not sure what else to say, it’s just really great.

Lorna: So you’ve been to a number of different exotic locations around the world? What were some of the places that you love the best?

Doug: Thailand I really love. It’s probably my favorite place out here in SE Asia. I’ve been to maybe 25 or 30 countries. Lots of great places in Europe, and Australia and New Zealand were a lot of fun as well. Yeah, it’s really hard to pick a favorite place.

Lorna: So you went to 25 countries over what period of time?

Doug: Well it’s been over several years. I haven’t obviously been traveling all that time. In 2005 was after I had graduated from college and done the backpacking thing. Basically

each year after that I tried to do a big trip. Last year I just decided, well why keep coming back? And just go on one really big trip. So it’s been about a year and a half since I’ve been back in the US.

Lorna: So can you tell us when you launched your business, I mean is this the business that you’ve been running for the past year and a half, or were you doing something else, then you launched it while you were location independent?

Doug: So this business officially was filed in January of 2009. I would say May 2009 was when I started working on it full-time and that’s when I had quit my corporate job. So I’ve been doing this for awhile and I just haven’t been fully location independent up until May of 2012.

Lorna: So since May of 2012 have you had any memorable moments of being a digital nomad that stick out in your mind?

Doug: Yeah, a lot of the things just in Chiang Mai because that’s where I’ve spent most of my time. So there’s this amazing lantern festival which a whole bunch of us went to last year. I think that was just a really magical experience. I think a lot of us didn’t know quite what to expect and there was a big group of us, and we all just got to experience it all together. It was great just being in a foreign country with a whole bunch of new friends.

Lorna: Yeah I remember seeing all those lanterns go off into the sky. It was so breathtakingly beautiful because they have this fantastic warm orange/red glow. They’re basically paper lanterns that fill up with hot air from a burning wick in the center of it.

Doug: Yes.

Lorna: So they just rise straight up into the air and float away and then eventually I think they just burn up.

Doug: Yeah, they burn up and once in awhile you’ll see where they end up.

Lorna: I know. It seems like it’s just releasing a lot of garbage into the atmosphere, on the other hand, even though it’s a beautiful spectacle to see. What is the name of that festival called? Do you remember?

Doug: So there’s kind of two names for it. The general, overall the festival is called Loi Krathong. There’s also the lantern releasing, like the timed lantern release is part of Yi Peng.

Lorna: Ok yeah, I missed that this year but going to it last year was fantastic.

So can you tell me more about your business, EfficientWP? How exactly do you make money online? Is it mostly through client work? Or do you have something that’s more of a residual or passive income business model?

Doug: So right now about 80-90% is from doing client work and then the rest is residual, recurring revenue from the hosting. And I’d much rather it be 100% residual. So that number, the ratio is slowly shifting. When you start with a consulting model it’s much easier to get money faster because of the nature of the work. Whereas when you have something residual it’s generally a much smaller payment. It will pay off much better over time but each customer you get is generally going to pay you a lot less than if you had gotten them as a consulting customer.

Lorna: Yeah, totally. I mean I think everyone that I know in the internet marketing world is chasing some aspect of the passive income dream because at the end of the day dollars for hours is just not scalable. I had a very difficult time over this past year because I had a personal event that really impacted my business and my business is mostly consulting. That’s my bread and butter. It really affected my productivity and my project deadlines. That made me realize, you know, I have to do something to automate my business more. To take myself out of my business so if something were to happen, hope to God that nothing tragic happens, but if something were to happen to me, or even if I decided to take a long sabbatical or trip someplace where I’d be offline, then business could keep going. So I really like the fact that you do have both a service based model but a passive income model that will hopefully expand to a point where you do less consulting.

Doug: Yes, that’s the goal.

Lorna: So how long did it take you to become successful? And what different things did you try when you began your entrepreneurial journey?

Doug: Well because I started doing the consulting it was pretty much profitable from day one. It wasn’t that different from what I’m doing now. I’ve just gotten much, much better at it. I had taken on some projects that were a bit outside the scope of what I should have been doing. So those things were a part of the learning experience but overall I would say I haven’t had to really make a massive pivot in my business and I’m pretty much sticking to what I started out with.

Lorna: Which is WordPress site development?

Doug: Yes. I had started, I had chosen WordPress and I’d chosen the Genesis framework very early on and those both turned out to be excellent choices so it’s worked out well for me.

Lorna: How did you get your first clients when you got started?

Doug: I had done pretty much everything within the local chamber of commerce. That was the first website I did so my first client was the local chamber of commerce in the town that I grew up in. From there I had gotten a lot of consulting clients from the chamber. Naturally, having done the website, got me a fair bit of attention even though it was a small town it was pretty easy to get new clients right from the beginning, so in a way I was pretty lucky there.

Lorna: What do you recommend for people who are just getting started in the web design industry or even just straight-up consulting to start getting work?

Doug: I would say networking is crucial.

Lorna: In person networking?

Doug: In person networking. You can also do content marketing but that will take a lot longer to get going. The in person networking is going to get you the results fast. You’re going to get feedback. You’ll learn things quicker by actually getting out there and talking to people.

Lorna: What about online networking? Have you ever found that to be successful for you in generating business and finding new clients?

Doug: Yes, through groups like the Dynamite Circle, I’ve gotten a lot of business from there. But I feel that closed smaller groups, just generally, you need that level of trust where if you’re just out there on some forums just trying to sell stuff and it’s not going to work out well. It might work out in terms of getting a lot of money, if you’re very good at marketing, but if you’re really looking for higher quality clients you have to work for it. You have to build that trust.

Lorna: So you find that participating in online forums and sharing your knowledge is actually a really powerful client attraction strategy.

Doug: Yes. If you can demonstrate that you’re an authority, that you’re really good at something, people will recognize that and they’ll seek you out. Especially if you can specialize in something. You might think that you might be turning away a lot of clients but in actuality you get that trust because there’s plenty of other people that say “oh yeah, I can build websites.” Or yes I can do marketing and I can do this or whatever you want. I feel that you just put yourself in the same space as all the people on oDesk and eLance and there’s a lot of other people that don’t stand out. What you want to do is to be unique and you’ll get more results out of that.

Lorna: How do you stand out?

Doug: What I specialize in is the Genesis framework. I have a few other things like WordPress multisite. What’s worked well for me is just delivering for my customers and trying to go above and beyond and also to be generous and to provide value to people who may not even be customers, who may never even be customers. They’ll recognize you and they’ll send you referrals. For me, at this stage of my business, all my clients come from referrals. Once you get to a certain point, I feel, at least for consulting, you almost don’t need to go and market yourself because the quality of referrals is so much higher that once you get enough of them it just kind of perpetuates.

Lorna: So do you feel like you have a steady stream of leads or referrals that generate enough consistent monthly revenue for you?

Doug: Yes. Right now I don’t have to actively go out and seek new clients. Obviously it’s not on a highly consistent basis but I get enough referrals that I don’t have to worry about it. Unfortunately it’s still all in the consulting work which is something that I want to do less of. In a way it’s ironic that I’ve been getting a lot of these referrals for work that I don’t really want to do. But I shouldn’t be complaining.

Lorna: Well I think there’s different stages. It’s like getting a pipeline of different referrals and then stage two might be selecting the clients you want to work with, or the projects you want to work on. That’s a great place to be.

Do you ever get clients off of social media? Like I know a number of people that recommend doing specific keyword searches like one keyword search would be “WordPress?” with a question mark. I’ve heard that it could be a powerful strategy to find new business off Twitter. Have you ever tried that before?

Doug: I haven’t. I don’t use social media that much and I probably should. Yeah, I can’t say that I have but it’s definitely something to look into in the future.

Lorna: So I’m curious to know what the benefits of using self hosted WordPress.org are? There’s so many different types of content managing systems and platforms. Some are hosted, some are self hosted, and so a big question that comes up is what’s the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com? Lets start out with the benefits of using self-hosted WordPress.

Doug: The main benefits are flexibility. Because it’s open source software, you can put in your own code, you can use different themes and different plugins. You can do a lot of customizations. In a way it’s almost unlimited as to what you can do with the WordPress.org software but of course you have to know what you’re doing.

Lorna: Yeah, I remember when WordPress.com basically offered twelve themes and their whole theme market place has exploded to include many beautiful free themes that go through some kind of vetting process with automatic as well. I think they check for viruses or malware. You know when you’re getting a free theme from the WordPress.com hosted platform there’s a certain level of trust. They also include paid themes too which is really cool because then you can get way more of a selection. It almost seems like WordPress.com offers as much as WordPress.org does. So why would one choose the WordPress.org over hosted WordPress.com?

Doug: Well with hosted WordPress.com you have a lot of choices with themes but there are many premium themes such as the Genesis framework, which is the one that I prefer, that are not available on WordPress.com. Probably just as important, or maybe even more important, is the fact that you don’t have the plugins on WordPress.com. There’s a couple things you can do with social sharing and getting some statistics but WordPress.org gives you lots and lots of feature.

Lorna: So wait. WordPress.com doesn’t have any plugins? Or does it only have a curated small selection of plugins?

Doug: Technically they are plugins but they don’t word them as plugins, it’s kind of just like built in features. For social sharing, for example, you have pretty much one option and it’s not very customizable on WordPress.com.

Whereas on WordPress.org you could choose from many different plugins and you can customize them in a lot of different ways. It’s one example. There’s other things on WordPress.org that you can’t even do anything remotely similar on WordPress.com.

Lorna: If you wanted to put in ads on WordPress.com could you?

Doug: I believe you can. First you would probably want to pay the fee to take ads off of your site. To take their ads off of your site.

Lorna: Oh. So they have ads that they serve all over your website?

Doug: Yes, but by default, if you don’t pay for the upgrade, I believe that they have ads that they advertise WordPress.com on your site.

Lorna: Hmmm, that’s interesting. You know, there’s a great video that I saw by, I can’t remember what blog put it out, but it was a video with a side by side comparison between WordPress.org and WordPress.com so I’m going to rummage around my bookmarks and see if I can find it and post it in the show notes. We’ll include all links to mentions of any tools and resources in the show notes of this episode.

So WordPress.org is the number one open source blogging tool and CMS program. For small businesses, it’s a huge improvement over hand coded html sites of the old days yonder. Where every change, changes even as simple as making a copy update or adding an image, involved you calling the web developer and being charged for their time.

I think one of the challenges with the self-hosted WordPress.org is that while it’s free and relatively easy to use because it has this “what you see is what you get” or WYSIWYG editor, there actually is a lot more work that comes with properly maintaining a WordPress website.

In fact, I’ve discovered with some of my clients that the act of maintaining a WordPress website can be really complicated and highly technical for business owners that have no technical skills whatsoever. People that really need you to walk them through the process of how to upload an image, for example. So there’s all kinds of things like plugin incompatibility, malware, WordPress core updates, backing up your database. I mean the list goes on in terms of things that you have to think about if you are a WordPress webmaster. In such a case, then paying a monthly fee for a hosted solution might be a better solution for small business owners who are technologically challenged.

I’m curious, Doug, can you provide an overview as to what goes into maintaining and updating a WordPress website that the owner needs to be aware of so that they can decide whether or not they want to go down the route of hosting WordPress.org on their servers.

Doug: I generally think of it in terms of three main areas.

The first one would be backups. With most hosting providers, they either don’t provide backups or they may not be on the schedule that you want, or they’re hard to find or you have to contact support. It’s essential that if anything goes wrong with your site that you have not only a backup but that you know that it’s a working backup and that you know how to restore from it. It’s not just a matter of copying and pasting files from one place to another. There’s a little bit of a process that goes into it.

The second thing would be upgrades and it’s basically a bit of a catch-22. If you don’t upgrade your site it won’t break from anything related to the upgrade because you’re not doing it, but you increase the risk that you’re going to get hacked. If you do upgrade your site, every time that you do it, there’s a risk that the plugin or theme is incompatible with the current version of WordPress or with one of the other themes or plugins and your site could go down or there could be an error message or a number of different things and then you have to go in and fix it.

Of course the third thing would be security. If you don’t secure your site there’s a fair chance of getting hacked. If you get hacked you may not even know that you’re hacked. You could be just linking to uh…

Lorna: Porn sites. I got the pharma hack. When I did a backlink report off of Majestic I noticed that I had all these spammy links pointing to my site but then I guess I was also linking out to websites on buying viagra or cialis or levitra. Also, too, it happened during one of the Penguin updates so my rankings totally tanks and I thought it was Penguin and I’m like what is going on? My content is unique. Is it really anchor text over optimization? When I finally solved this problem by using the Google disavow tool so basically I exported all those backlinks and then uploaded them into Google webmaster tools in their disavow tools section and eventually Google Disavow basically neutralized all those spammy links and my rankings recovered but it took months for that to happen.

Doug: And you probably caught it a lot earlier than the average person would.

Lorna: Oh I can imagine. Because I had no idea. Who actually Googles their own website pages? It had replaced all my webpage title tags with buy Cialis, buy Viagra, so yeah, I can imagine.

I think given the work that goes into maintaining and updating WordPress.org, what key factors would you advise small businesses to consider if they’re going to determine if they should go with self-hosted WordPress, or hosted WordPress.com, or even choose another professional hosted CMS like SquareSpace, for example.

Doug: I think it comes down to what plans you have with the website. If you need more features, if you want more control over your design. With WordPress.com or SquareSpace, you’d be much more limited. For some people, maybe you just have a blog that you want to share some pictures with your family and you don’t care what it looks like.

Lorna: But if you have a business though? If you’re starting a business.

Doug: If you have a business, odds are you would need WordPress.org software to have a website that fits all of your needs.

Lorna: Can you do shopping cart? Does WordPress.com have shopping cart functionality?

Doug: WordPress.com does not. WordPress.org, there are e-commerce plugins. As a general rule, WordPress isn’t the best for e-commerce. It can be done. There are a lot of successful, large stores but it generally seems to be a lot more work than on something like Shopify, for example.

Lorna: Yeah that’s a hosted platform though.

Doug: Yes. So you are much more limited on Shopify. WordPress, it has so many advantages but it can’t be the best at absolutely everything and e-commerce is probably the number one complaint that people would have about WordPress. They just haven’t solved that issue without putting in a lot of work into it.

Lorna: But I do think that WordPress e-commerce is better than ZenCart.

Doug: Probably. You have a lot more flexibility. You can do a lot with it. The main thing with Shopify is that you can get up and running right away. It may not work as well as a long term solution but a lot of people do get frustrated setting up a site in WordPress that maybe it takes them longer than they think and it is much better, in the long run, to have something where you can customize on WordPress.org but unfortunately a lot of people want it done yesterday.

Lorna: Yeah, totally.

When you are choosing a hosting company, what do you recommend for self-hosted WordPress? I know that there’s server configurations that you need to take into account like some servers are actually optimized for self-hosted WordPress and others aren’t. So what would work well with a WordPress website.

What kind of hosting do you recommend for self-hosted WordPress? Rackspace. Hostgator. Bluehost. Synthesis. WP Engine. Page.ly. EfficientWP? How do you evaluate what the best webhost is for your website?

Doug: Well, of course I’m going to recommend EfficientWP but I’ll just give a quick overview of the different types of hosting.

Generally Hostgator, Bluehost, GoDaddy, they all fall under the cheap shared hosting category. You’re typically paying less than $100 a year. You have to maintain pretty much all aspects of your site and you’re likely going to be on a slow server. Generally people who are on an extremely tight budget will start off with one of these. Quickly you’ll find that if this is your business site and if you need your business site to be up and not hacked and not broken and that’s usually worth a little bit more money, then you’ll eventually upgrade to something else.

Managed WordPress hosting, like Synthesis and WP Engine, are right now generally the best choice unless you have a lot of resources to hire somebody to actually manage a server for you. What these services do is they handle security and optimization at the server level. What this means is they can basically do a lot more in securing your site without you having to setup security protocols and security plugins. If you get a traffic spike they won’t shut you down. They’re built to handle it if you get on Reddit or Digg or anything like that. Whereas, a company like Bluehost, if you get a traffic spike, they’ll shut your site down immediately, which is the worst thing that you want if you do get a post that goes viral.

What my service, EfficientWP does is a bit different from that. It is similar to Synthesis and WP Engine in that you’re secured at the server level and the infrastructure can handle these traffic spikes but the biggest advantage of what I have is that all the upgrades are done for you. First of all you don’t have to do the upgrades, but second, your site isn’t going to break or get hacked because of these things.

Normally when you have a self-hosted WordPress.org site, you’re responsible for this or you need to hire a developer to regularly update your site, to check it, and then to fix it when it breaks.

Lorna: That’s such a hassle. I go through that a lot. Just the process of specking out the job and hiring someone who’s not a goofball and managing the project and getting them paid out is really time consuming.

Doug: Yeah it’s a lot more trouble than most people would think from the beginning.

Lorna: Yeah for sure. But some of these managed hosting platforms, do they actually do proactive backups and updates to plugins in WordPress core, or do you still have to go in and press the buttons?

Doug: Yeah, generally they will do the backups for you. You would have to either contact them to get the backups or they would make it a function. They would give you the ability to do your own backups. In that area it’s quite good. On the upgrades, what I’ve seen is generally they will upgrade WordPress Core automatically, after a certain period of time, once its released, they will do it automatically but they will not do theme and plugin upgrades for you. There is a risk in upgrading WordPress but not your plugins and themes because with each upgrade, the theme and plugins that you have may not work with the current version of WordPress. If the plugin author updates the plugin to be compatible with the new version of WordPress, but your host automatically updates WordPress and you don’t upgrade the plugin, then your site is going to break without actually doing anything. It’s because WordPress was updated automatically.

Lorna: So it might make more sense to pay for that higher cost package to have one of these services do proactive updates for the plugins and the core.

Doug: Yeah, it’s good for security, that the core is updated for you but every time that happens you run the risk of your site breaking and for most people that’s pretty important. That you’re not checking your site all the time to see if it’s broken and that if it does break you need somebody to fix it right away. Or in the best-case scenario is you get somebody to test the upgrade that’s not even on your live site to see if it will break, and if it does break to have a fix ready so that none of your visitors will actually see your broken site.

Lorna: Wow, that’s really professional. I think most people just hit the button. I do, I just hit the button. I can’t get it on a test server or anything like that.

Doug: You hit the button and you cross your fingers.

Lorna: Yeah, exactly, that’s what I do. [laughing]

So what are some of the factors that a WordPress website owner should consider when deciding whether or not to purchase managed WordPress hosting?

Doug: Well the first factor I think most people consider is the price. For a business you really shouldn’t just go with the cheapest option because that will cost you in the long run. What I would say the important factor to consider is the features and the limitations of that managed hosting provider. For example the cheap shared hosting always offers unlimited storage and unlimited bandwidth. They don’t actually tell you that there are limits. That they’ll just shut you down and there’s a fair usage policy.

With managed hosting they usually give you specific numbers. Like for example WP Engine would have 10 gigabytes of storage and I believe it’s 2,500 visitors a month or something like that.

Lorna: It seems like not a lot.

Doug: With managed hosting, if you do have a high traffic site or a very large site, it does get very expensive quickly.

Lorna: Yeah I get a hundred gigs of storage from seohosting.com. They don’t really do visitors. It’s like bandwidth and hard drive storage.

So, lets see. I think one of the challenges with having a self-hosted WordPress site is that many website owners simply can’t keep up with all the updates and backups or let alone deal with hiring a web developer every time a plugin breaks. Like we talked about it’s really time consuming, you have to post the job, and hire someone to manage them, so are there any essential services that you might recommend for busy small business owners to subscribe to or purchase or at least keep on their radar incase some of these routine fixes need to be dealt with?

Doug: Yeah, so I would recommend WP Curve.

Lorna: I just signed up for WP Curve.

Doug: So we both know one of the co-founders.

Lorna: Dan Norris, right?

Doug: Dan Norris. This business has been extremely successful, very quickly. He’s pretty open and straight forward about his numbers and a lot about how he’s gotten this so successful. To me that, plus the fact that I actually talk to him pretty much every week on another call that I’m on, I know that it’s a solid service and I know how much money and how much pain it could add up to if you have to find a developer when something breaks. Even if you have a developer on call, how much money is that person really going to charge you, how much work is involved when you’re paying them per hour, and if your site breaks at midnight how long until they fix it?

Lorna: Yeah and also do you trust them? Do you trust that they’re doing the work that they’re doing and not turning your website into a link farm.

Doug: Yeah, exactly. When you can go with a company that has the whole process, they know it inside and out, its what I think a very reasonable rate that basically they fix everything for a flat rate.

Lorna: I think they have unlimited 30 minute fixes for their monthly subscription program which is fantastic.

Doug: Yes.

Lorna: Because I think most people when they want something fixed or changed it’s usually like, oh can you change the font size? Or upload a new image or logo. It’s never really a major layout overall for example. So it’s perfect for these small business owners that just have a lot of small little tweaks that they want to do and they don’t want to go through all that trouble just to find someone that will do those tweaks.

Doug: Yeah, I agree completely.

Lorna: What I love about WP Curve is that Dan is amazingly responsive. I mean he emails back and emails back fast which is great because I think one of the things about any type of service whether it’s a web hosting service or something else, or even banking. Customer service is so important. I get so frustrated when I cannot reach customer service when I need them.

Doug: Yeah.

Lorna: I wonder if he sleeps.

Doug: Yeah, I don’t understand how he can do everything that he does. How he’s doing it.

Lorna: I know I think he’s cloned himself. Dan, do you sleep? I’m going to ask him that.

Ok, what other services do you recommend? I use Sucuri. That’s S-U-C-U-R-I. They basically monitor my sites for hacks and viruses and I think if something actually does go down with the site, in terms of malware, then they will actually fix it.

Doug: Yeah it’s good if you’re hosting it yourself or you’re not using managed hosting. A lot of times with managed hosting security is built in and because of that fact you know that it’s got to be a good service.

If it’s too much trouble to switch to managed hosting or you don’t think you can afford it but you need to keep your site secure it’s a very worthwhile investment.

Lorna: So do you know for a fact that if you sign up for managed hosting you’re not going to get a virus?

Doug: Well I’m sure they can never guarantee that but there’s a lot less that you would have to worry about in terms of security. I have never heard of anyone who’s been on managed hosting that has gotten hacked. With my own sites, even before I moved to managed hosting I was doing my own security precautions and I haven’t been hacked. Nothing is 100% but your odds are much, much better.

Lorna: Okay, any other services that you find are essential for busy small business owners with WordPress.

Doug: As far as services go, I’m not sure. I would say it would depend on your particular site and your needs. You would probably want to have a developer on call or at least know some that if something breaks or if you need something urgent that you have that option that you can get things done quickly.

Lorna: Have you heard of Tweaky?

Doug: Yes.

Lorna: They’re also kind of like WP Curve, right? Or are they different?

Doug: Yeah, I believe they’re more on the design side. Well, I think they do kind of everything.

Lorna: You know what’s cool? They do opt-in, custom opt-in forms which is really nice.

Doug: The Tweaky model is different from WP Curve in that it seems to be all based on one off tasks. I think it’s at $39 base price for most of these changes. Whereas WP Curve is you pay a higher price but it’s unlimited changes.

Lorna: Do you have any recommendations on essential WordPress plugins?

Doug: So I’ll go with a few that I think most sites would benefit from.

So the first one would be a plugin called Back WP Up. And this is the one, it’s actually a free plugin but I found it to be very reliable for making backups and you can set up automated backup jobs and send them to your Dropbox or Amazon S3 account. It allows you to make file and database backups. You can actually separate the file backup into smaller parts which is something that I haven’t found in as many other backup plugins.

Lorna: And what’s the value of that?

Doug: The value of that is if you need just part of the backup you can get it a lot faster and it’s less likely that a backup job would get stuck if you have a lot of files. If you had 10 gigabytes and then you were trying to send a 10 gigabyte file over to Dropbox or to Amazon S3 there’s a higher chance of something going wrong in the connection during that time frame.

A couple of other plugins I would recommend Gravity forms if you need contact forms or anything more complex than just a basic name, email message. It’s a premium plugin but the amount of features and flexibility it has is quite amazing.

I’d also recommend W3 Total Cache to speed up your site. Its not for the faint of heart, it’s quite complicated to set up correctly, but it can basically slash your site loading time by an incredible amount, and of course WordPress SEO, which is the best SEO plugin.

Lorna: Yeah, that’s created by Joost de Valk. You can check out Joost’ website at Y-O-A-S-T, like toast, but Yoast.com. But I think he put a lot of thought into the WordPress SEO plugin. I remember when it just came out and yeah, it pretty much does everything you need, SEO-wise from one backend control panel.

So what about social media plugins?

Doug: There’s one plugin that I like in particular called Socialize. The reason I like this is it’s a lot more customizable than some of the other plugins. So you can put the social sharing buttons in line or as a floating bar. You can also make a call to action box at the bottom of your posts and you can insert social media buttons or any other content that you want.

Lorna: So you can actually customize your own social media buttons by getting one of those social media icon download packs? If you want to have prettier buttons than what the plugin offers?

Doug: You would probably have to dig in to the code a bit to change those. It’s an option but the plugin author has given a fair amount of options for those sharing buttons. Some of the interesting things you can do with this plugin is that you can choose which ones you want to show, which order you want to show them on, and you can even do this on a per post or per page basis.

Lorna: Yeah you don’t have to have all these social sharing buttons on your contact us page, for example?

Doug: Yes.

Lorna: That’s nice.

So there’s a lot of plugins that do the same things. How do you decide which plugins to choose?

Doug: When it’s in the plugin repository on WordPress.org which is the official safe place to download plugins for, the main measures that I use would be the rating, the number of downloads, and last updated date.

So anyone with a WordPress.org account can rate the plugin and leave a review. So this is a pretty good indicator of the quality. If somebody tries a plugin and it keeps breaking they’re going to give it a low star, a low number of stars.

The number of downloads is a pretty good indicator of how popular the plugin is. If you have a plugin that’s had 100,000 downloads it’s probably a lot better that has 50 downloads.

Finally, the last updated date is pretty important because if the plugin author is not updating his or her plugin with new versions of WordPress or to make it compatible with other plugins then there’s a much higher chance that that plugin is going to break your site one day or that somebody could hack in using an exploit. So when a plugin hasn’t been updated within a year or two years then that’s generally a warning sign.

Lorna: Do you have any recommendations on WordPress themes? Free or pro, and with pro which theme developers and why?

Doug: So with pro, I’d recommend pro themes as opposed to the free ones because they’re generally higher quality. Somebody’s getting paid to build it as opposed to somebody who is doing it in their free time or using it as a marketing channel or something like that.

Lorna: Or a way to distribute malware.

Doug: Yes. That’s the other thing which, unfortunately is a concern. As far as pro themes, there are a lot of choices out there. My favorite framework is the Genesis framework. I’ve actually bought a few other ones, a few different frameworks and tried them.

Lorna: Have you tried the Woo framework?

Doug: I have and I didn’t like it.

Lorna: Why not?

Doug: The way its coded and the way, just the options panels, I feel aren’t quite up to the standards of Genesis, and this is my opinion, of course.

Lorna: I think one of the things really appealing about Woo themes are that the themes are so attractive.

Doug: Yeah.

Lorna: I mean you can do anything to a Genesis framework child theme, but the ones that they offer for sale look a little more like the same with each other. But you can ultimately customize it to be completely unique.

Doug: Yeah that’s one of the problems with the Genesis framework is that the base themes are not as impressive as what people have actually done with them later. They’ve made some real improvements in design over the years and I feel like they’re catching up with some of the competitors in terms of aesthetics. For me as a developer, the quality of the code, the reliability is more important than the design, especially when I know that I can customize a design.

Lorna: So in your entrepreneurial journey, is there any mistake that you made along the way that cost you time, energy and money that you would do differently if you had another chance? We’d love to learn from your mistakes so that we don’t go down the same road.

Doug: Yeah I think just trying hard to please every potential customer was a mistake in the beginning and I feel that it’s going to be the case with pretty much anyone starting out. I accepted some projects that really didn’t have much to do with WordPress. I feel that while I definitely learned a lot, it wasn’t along the same path and knowledge that doesn’t really apply to me now except for the fact that I know I never want to do that kind of work. So I would say…

Lorna: Like stay focused on your core skillset and capacity?

Doug: Yes, and try not to compromise with what you’re doing and don’t keep accepting, oh you know, just one more thing. Of course it’s easier said than done but you do need to have a focus and make sure your clients know the limits of what you do and if you’re designing WordPress sites that you’re not going to migrate their email for them or fix their computer in a way.

So perhaps I’m too generous or too much of a nice guy to go and do those kinds of things to be a computer repairman. I think just stay focused and not to say that you shouldn’t try to make your customers happy but there’s other customers out there and you’re probably not going to lose your customer if its something that’s completely outside of your skillset that they’re asking you to do that’s more or less unreasonable.

Doug: So we’re about at the end of our segment here. How can we best stay in touch with you?

Doug: So email or Twitter. Those are good ways to reach me.

Doug: So what’s your Twitter handle? What’s your email?

Doug: Twitter is @doug_yuen and my last name is spelled Y-U-E-N. And my email is doug@efficientwp.com

Doug: Fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing with us your small business WordPress essentials and buy for now.
[END OF RECORDING]

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Comments

  1. Douglas Yuen says

    Thanks for having me as your guest!

  2. Great Podcast, Lorna! First time finding it. I’m going to pass this along on Twitter too.

    Blessings,

    Robb

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